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Opinion: The Late Blooming Of The 'Hardcore' PS2

Opinion: The Late Blooming Of The 'Hardcore' PS2

March 17, 2008 | By Simon Carless

March 17, 2008 | By Simon Carless
More: Console/PC

[In this informal opinion piece, Gamasutra publisher Simon Carless looks at the 'hardcore game renaissance' on the PlayStation 2, thanks to an influx of Japanese imports and the apparent willingness of Sony to concept approve quirkier titles.]

Having just received the new issue of Game Informer magazine with Alpha Protocol on the cover, I was very interested to spot an ad for O3 Entertainment's Chaos Wars, which SiliconEra has been discussing for a while.

It's coming out in April now for PS2 - there's a pre-order page on GameStop's website. This is actually a pretty obscure product - as the Wikipedia page explains:

"Chaos Wars is a crossover between several companies' console role-playing game series: Aruze's Shadow Hearts, Atlus's Growlanser, Idea Factory's Blazing Souls, Gakuen Toshi Vara Noir, Spectral Force, Spectral Souls and Hametsu no Mars, and RED Entertainment's Gungrave and Samurai Police/Shinsengumi Gunrouden."

But yet it's managed to get a U.S. release on PlayStation 2, and that's part of an interesting trend. As the PS2 hardware has matured, but continued to sell (heck, it managed 350,000 units in the U.S. in February), we seem to be seeing SCEA relax its concept approval on casual titles and Japanese niche games alike.

Time was it that standalone 2D games wouldn't make it out on PlayStation 2. It's difficult to work out what was actually permitted, since there are some extravagant rumors, but it certainly seems that titles like Arcana Heart wouldn't have made it out previously. And now it has.

With that in mind, I've assembled a brief list of some North American PS2 titles of recent and upcoming vintages that seem oriented specifically for the so-called "hardcore gamer."I have almost certainly missed some, so that's what the comments are for:

- Arcana Heart (PS2, Atlus, April 2008)
"A 2D arcade fighting game developed by Examu (formerly Yuki Enterprise)... the game features an original all-female cast (each a variation of the moe Anime-Girl archetype), and after choosing a character the player chooses an "elemental alignment" which determines the character's special moves."

- Taito Legends 2 (Destineer, May 2007)
"Taito Legends 2 is a follow-up collection of... Taito arcade games for the PlayStation 2 [including Cameltry, Cleopatra Fortune, Elevator Action Returns, and a host of others]... Bonus content includes hints, cheats and tips for most games, original game flyers, and one interview with Taito."

- King Of Fighters XI (SNK, November 2007)
"The latest installment of The King of Fighters series. The game continues the story of The King of Fighters 2003." But also see a host of others, including Neo Geo Battle Coliseum, World Heroes Anthology, Fatal Fury Battle Archives, and more. SCEA sometimes allowed compilations of SNK 2D titles before, but it definitely seems like they are getting more friendly as resources shift to Wii and next-gen consoles.

- Heavenly Guardian (UFO Interactive, February 2008)
"The successor to the cult favorite Kiki KaiKai series, known more commonly as Pocky & Rocky in North America. It is not precisely the Kiki KaiKai 2 sequel that had previously been announced and canceled - however it is developed by the same company, Starfish SD, and has been described as a "spiritual successor" and is allegedly "very similar" to the cancelled game according to Kiki Kai World's publisher, UFO Entertainment."

Some other alternative titles to mention might include Baroque, Mana Khemia, Guilty Gear XX Accent Core, Persona 3 FES and a host of others. Again, it's not as if these titles all wouldnt have been released before.

But in a time that a lot of people are concentrating on the 'next-gen experiences', it's great to see some exquisitely niche PlayStation 2 titles - often with wonderfully crafted gameplay - flowing into the West.

Sure, these are niche games which may only sell 10,000 or 20,000 copies, but with the titles already produced for the Japanese market, and with Japanese game developers increasingly targeting the Western market, we may well see more in the future.

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